Daxton Chambers barely concealed his impatience with his friend and fellow law enforcement officer, Thomas James “TJ” Rockwell.
“Shut up, TJ. The only reason I agreed to come tonight is because I lost that ridiculous bet.”
“Yeah, only you were stupid enough to bet the SAFD would win that basketball tournament. You should’ve gone with the boys in blue rather than those hose jockeys.”
“Hey, I’ve played against some of those guys and they’re killers on the court, that’s why I thought they’d win. They just had a bad day. Driftwood and Crash played in college, and Squirrel and Taco played in high school. The rest? Doesn’t matter, they’re usually just there to cause havoc so the others can handle the ball.”
TJ laughed. “Yeah, you might be right, but whatever happened, they still lost, so suck it up. This charity thing is only gonna last for a couple of hours. Just be thankful they didn’t decide to have a bachelor auction. I think that’s been way overdone and is totally cliché, but it’s easy and kinda fun in a warped way. But for tonight, we just have to show up, flex our muscles a bit, then leave.” TJ ran a hand through his dark, wavy hair.
Dax watched as a tableful of women nearby checked TJ out and then giggled, whispering softly to each other. He chuckled. “Don’t look now, but I think you’ve got an entire table of admirers over there.”
Of course TJ looked, but immediately turned back to his friend. “Jesus, Dax. They’re barely out of college. No thank you. That time in my life is over. I’m looking for a woman who’s serious about a relationship, not a badge bunny who only wants to sleep with as many cops as she can. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”
“Well, when you find one, hopefully she has a best friend or a sister for me.” Dax slapped TJ on the shoulder. “Come on, let’s go get a beer and hide out in the corner until this shindig is over. What kind of shifts you got this week? Want to go to that new steak place the guys have been talking about?”
“Let me check and get back to you. They’re changing the shifts around and I’m not sure what I’ll be doing after next week.”
TJ was an officer with the Highway Patrol and Dax was a Texas Ranger. They’d met at a crime scene, and had been friends ever since. Now they were able to collaborate more readily on cases and hang out at law enforcement conferences.
“Are Cruz and Quint coming to this thing tonight?” Dax asked. Cruz Livingston was an FBI agent who worked at the San Antonio Station and Quint Axton was an officer with the San Antonio Police Department.
“Yeah, I think so. Calder, Hayden, and Conor are also supposed to show up. The nonprofit group tried to get law enforcement from all over the city to attend. I haven’t seen them in a while and it’ll be great to catch up.”
Calder Stonewall was one of the medical examiners for San Antonio. Both TJ and Dax had gotten to know him through their cases. Hayden Yates was a sheriff’s deputy, the only woman in their tight-knit group, and she’d earned all their respect in a recent rape case. Rape was never easy to investigate or prosecute, and Hayden had worked hard to get justice for the teenager who had been violated by three college men while she’d been attending a party.
The last man in their law enforcement posse was Conor Paxton. He was also probably the person they all knew the least. He worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division, a member of the SCOUT team that assisted in critical incidents. There were only twenty-five SCOUT members in the entire state of Texas. Conor was quiet and focused, but made a hell of a partner in emergencies.
“Well, we might as well get settled in. There are some speeches first, right? Then the kids are coming out for the talent show?” Dax asked TJ.
“Yeah, our table’s off to the side. I asked the organizers not to put us in the middle in case any of us get called away.”
The men walked around until they found the table with their names on the seating cards. As requested, Cruz, Quint, Calder, Hayden, and Conor had also been assigned seats at the same table.
“As much as I bitched about this tonight, I’m glad I’m here. The kids are always so cute singing and dancing, and it’s not often all of us get to be in the same place at the same time, especially when it’s for fun and not for work,” TJ said after they’d gotten comfortable at the table.
“Agreed,” Dax said while nodding.
TJ and Dax settled into their seats and waited for their friends to show up and for the entertainment to start.
* * *
“Sandra, make sure the kids and their parents know what order everyone is performing. We can’t have too much of a break between the acts. We gotta keep this moving.” Mackenzie Morgan put her hands on her hips and surveyed the crowd mingling in the large ballroom. This was the second year she’d almost single-handedly organized the annual charity event. It was a rewarding experience, and the law enforcement personnel who showed up were mostly easy on the eyes.
Mackenzie worked for a nonprofit agency called San Antonio Cares (SAC). The company helped all sorts of people in the city, from children to the elderly. They held auctions, charity events, and generally raised money for the less-fortunate people living in the large metropolitan city in Texas. Sandra was the administrative assistant, and one of Mackenzie’s biggest helpers for the event. There was no way she’d be able to pull it off without her.
This event was one of their biggest. SAC invited law enforcement officers from all over the city and they usually had a phenomenal turnout. Tonight was no exception. Mackenzie had always liked working with law enforcement. The men and women were almost always very polite and courteous. It was a fallacy that they were all good-looking, though. Mack had seen her share of policemen and women who wouldn’t win any beauty contests anytime soon.
However, tonight for